Whether dealing with surface geology, well data, seismic reflection data, or a combination of these, geologists are faced with ambiguity and difficult decisions when interpreting geologic structures. In all cases, sparse data requires “connecting the dots” between data constraints with sensible interpretations; best practices in doing so require deciding what style of structure you are dealing with (fault bend fold, fault propagation fold, detachment fold, etc.). This can be challenging in certain areas because data is sparse, or where structures are complicated by either not being well characterized by an end-member structural style, such as fault-bend folding, or, by the overprinting of structural styles over time.

Generalized area-depth method for estimating fault trajectory at depth (from Eichelberger et al., 2017).
Application of area-depth method to interpretation of the trajectory of the White Wolf Fault, validated by good accordance with the focal mechanism from the Mw 7.5 1952 Kern County earthquake (from Eichelberger et al., 2017).

Therefore, I am interested in the development of new methods, or joint application of existing methods, to interpret structural style with more confidence from observations that can be made objectively from the data available. These include generalized area depth relationships for predicting the trajectory of faults at depth (Eichelberger et al., 2017), the relationship between the distribution of displacement along faults and structural style (Hughes and Shaw, 2014), and combinations of these and other quantitative methods (Eichelberger et al., 2015) to reduce interpretation uncertainty.

Generalized displacement-distance relationships for end-member structural styles (from Hughes and Shaw, 2014).
Top: Seismic reflection example of a fault-related fold in the Cascadia accretionary prism with inset shear-fault bend fold model developed from observed geometries in the seismic data. Displacement-distance profile (middle) and palinspastic estimate of shear (bottom) measured from seismic interpretation in top image (solid line and circles) and kinematic model (dashed), demonstrated that these integrated methods can lead to internally consistent structural interpretations and highlight portions of structures where kinematic approximations of structural growth are good approximations of the observations, and other places that warrant more detailed consideration of second-order processes (Hughes and Shaw, 2014).

Related publications:

Eichelberger, N.W., A.G. Nunns, R.H. Groshong, and A.N. Hughes (2017), Direct estimation of fault trajectory from structural relief, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, 101 (5), p. 635-653. Link

Eichelberger, N.W., A.N. Hughes, and A.G. Nunns (2015), Combining multiple quantitative structural analysis techniques to create robust structural interpretations, Interpretation, 3 (4), p. 89-104. Link

Hughes, A.N., and J.H. Shaw, (2014), Fault Displacement-Distance Relationships as Indicators of Contractional Fault-related Folding Style, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, 98 (2), p. 227-251. Link